Warning signs of a computer failure

The scary reality about computer crashes is that the warning signs are few, if any, and even when you know what to look for, these signs can be very difficult to spot.

For this reason, computer backup is necessary every day, because it’s almost impossible to know if or when your hard drive is at risk of imminent crash.

I often hear potential customers sneer, “Well, I just bought this computer recently, it’s practically new, so I don’t need to worry about backup just yet.”

And that’s when I tell you about Google, the largest owner of computer hard drives in the world.

In February 2007, Google Inc. published a study they conducted on their own computers titled Failure trends in a large population of disk drives. According to this study, which was the largest of its kind ever conducted, hard drives are more likely to fail if they are less than 3 months old or more than 2 years old. Basically, if you think computer backup is unnecessary because your computer is new, you might be in for a terrible surprise.

But if you still intend to postpone all precautionary measures until you can personally perceive a problem with your computer, there are some signs that, if you’re lucky enough to notice, may indicate that your computer is in imminent danger of a critical crash. However, I want to emphasize that these warnings may or may not be self-evident. The absence of any or all of these signs does not mean that your hard drive is clean.

Remember: a hard drive crash can happen unexpectedly at any given time, and the chance of you seeing it coming is ridiculously small and certainly not worth the risk. Running your business on a computer without daily automatic offsite backup is a recipe for bankruptcy, as more than 70% of businesses that experience major data loss go out of business within a year.

With that said, here are several warning signs that may indicate your computer is at risk of hard drive failure:

1. Your computer is slow to boot up (turn on).

If you notice that your computer is not starting up as fast as it normally does, and this slowdown cannot be attributed to the installation of new antivirus software, your hard drive may have bad blocks/sectors.

Your hard drive contains magnetically coated metal disks that spin at a rate of about 5,400 times per minute. If these drives (or their coating) are damaged in any way, catastrophic failure is likely to occur within 6 months.

2. Your computer starts to buzz and/or make noise.

A change in the way your computer sounds could indicate that the disks inside your hard drive are having difficulty completing their rotation. Remember: your computer has moving parts, and these parts are located very close to each other. Dust specks, which are not visible to the naked eye, can damage these discs and impede their movement, not to mention the metal fingers that hold these discs.

3. Your computer experiences a read/write error or indicates that a disk has not responded.

According to the aforementioned Google Inc. study, hard drives are 30 times more likely to fail within 60 days of experiencing an initial scan error than drives that have not yet received such errors.

So how can you protect your computer against a crash?

1. Number one BETTER The way to protect your computer (and your business) is not to try to protect it from a crash, but to plan for data recovery after a crash.

The reason is that there is no fail-safe way to avoid a computer crash. Simply search for “automatic computer backup” and the name of your city, province, or state to sign up for one of the many secure online storage services available.

2. List the services of a reputable IT service company that offers monthly service contracts and ask them to clean and test your hard drive regularly.

Regular cleaning of your hard drive will not only prolong the life of your computer, but will also reduce the risk of data loss.

3. Ask your computer to check for errors and bad blocks.

Your computer may not be kind enough to automatically alert you when sectors on your hard drive become bad, but it can ask it to check for problems. To do so, follow these steps:

o Right-click on My Computer.

o Select Manage, which opens the Computer Management screen that is split between a left and right side.

o On the left side, find Event Viewer and click the plus sign to its left. A list will then appear.

o Click System. A list will appear on the right side of the screen.

o Scroll down the list to find any red “X” error entries. These entries indicate an existing problem.

o Double-click the red “X” entries to bring up the Event Properties screen, which will give you more information about the error.

In closing, I recommend that you commit, right now, to backing up your computer through an external secure storage service. Waiting one more day to protect your business may be too much.

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